Tea and tax scrutiny are problems for IRS

Few government agencies hold such broad authority as the Internal Revenue Service, so when the IRS starts targeting groups for their political viewpoints it is a threat to free speech and our…




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While I agree that groups should not be targeted by the IRS for their political leanings, whether they are leaning to the left or the right, I think there is an issue that is being missed in all of this outrage. When did America decide to forgo taxes on political groups? The 501(c)(4) status is for a group that primarily promotes the social welfare of the nation. How do ads bashing political enemies promote the social welfare of a nation? Political donations to candidates are not tax deductible for individuals, why is it okay for them to be tax deductible for individual and corporate donors to 501(c)(4) organizations—whether it is Obama’s Organizing for Action or Rove’s American Crossroads? The IRS needs to target all of the organizations that are confusing social welfare with political expediency.

Kudos to the Daily Sentinel for Monday’s coverage of the IRS “scandal”:  “Ground zero of scandal:  IRS unit in turmoil” (NYT), “Aide:  Obama didn’t know of targeting” (AP), and “Audit flap energizes tea party coalition” (AP).

Contrary to Senator Rubio’s contention that “this is what happens when you expand government”, the reported facts demonstrate that the “scandal” arose from mindlessly shrinking government, changing “the rules of the game” without providing adequate guidance, and then inundating IRS employees with thousands of dubious applications.

Under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, only “social welfare” entities not “primarily” engaged in politics are entitled to tax-exempt status – under which taxpayers effectively subsidize their activities and their tax-deducting contributors can remain anonymous.

Political groups of every persuasion sought to exploit the loophole opened by the Citizens United decision by claiming to be primarily “social welfare” organizations entitled to conceal the identities of – particularly—their wealthy and corporate donors.

Despite the contents of their applications, many such groups appeared to be ineligible for tax-exempt status.  For example, “Tea Party” and other “conservative” groups using patriotic-sounding euphemisms in their organizational names had publicly vilified both government in general and President Obama in particular, suggesting that they were not “primarily” engaged in promoting “social welfare”, but rather partisan political views.  Nevertheless, only some 70 of 300 groups purportedly “targeted” were “conservative”.

Unfortunately, that “targeting” took the form of intolerable delays and IRS requests for additional information which were not narrowly tailored to the law’s eligibility criteria – evidence of mismanagement that justified the resignations of incompetent bureaucrats.

Thus, the real “scandal” is that the Tea Party, et al., having been caught with their hands in the public “cookie jar”, are “outraged” at being “singled out”—not because they are “conservative”, but because they are self-evidently and primarily political.

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